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The Gift of Gab

65 Fun Games and Activities to Help Encourage Speech Development in Your Child

Encourage speech development with fun games and activities from veteran speech pathologist Francine Davids.

From babbling babies to young elementary schoolers, this fun, engaging collection of educational games and activities can jump-start language development at any stage. Whether your child has a developmental delay or you just want to set them up for success, The Gift of Gab provides all the tools you need to practice language in a low-pressure way. With the calm reassurance of a lifelong educator, author Francine Davids also offers background on the basics of language development, a range of milestones, and some easy ways to tell if your child is on the right track.

Organized by game type, so parents can easily find the most age-appropriate material, The Gift of Gab covers a range of fun approaches, including:
-Singing and clapping games
-Games that use toys you already have in the house
-Games using homemade materials like cootie catchers and paper dice
-Imaginative card games
-Games to play on the go, in the car, or at the grocery store
-Games for larger groups
-And even games to teach social skills like taking turns!

With a range of printable materials available online for free download, The Gift of Gab not only takes the stress out of language development, it also offers an accessible, play-based way to connect with your child every day.

GAMES FOR EVERY OCCASION
I have provided over sixty games and activities for you to choose from that are appropriate for children ranging in age from infancy to the early elementary school years. Each game description states the Target Skills (the speech, language, motor, and social skills that the game is designed to support), the Materials needed (with several options to spark your creativity whenever possible), and a description of the Object of the Game, so that all players will understand the goal.

These games and activities are selected for their ease, fun, and proven effectiveness. Whenever possible, they have been devised to fit in with a parent’s busy life. Many focus on how to bring play into everyday chores and experiences, incorporate play into larger family gatherings, and use games to deepen your relationship with your child. As children mature, the games they prefer become more abstract and fanciful in nature. But don’t worry—I have provided everything you need to get started, from games to play with infants and toddlers to creative storytelling and rule-governed card games for school-age kids.
 
SEVEN CHAPTERS OF GAMES
The games in each chapter are arranged from simplest to most complex, so you can select the game or activity that will allow you and your child the greatest success and enjoyment. The seven chapters are organized as follows:

Nothing Up My Sleeve: These are games and activities played with common household objects, or no materials at all. Easy to play in the spur of the moment.

In the Toy Box: These games and activities maximize speech and language development by using things you find around the house that your child probably already plays with—bath toys, children’s books, pots and pans.

I Can Do It Myself!: You can create your own materials together with your child. Introduce your kids to Cootie Catchers and edible play dough. Recipes and patterns are provided. These homemade materials work alone or in combination in a variety of games and activities that support speech and language growth.

Who Goes First?: Avoid those inevitable discussions about fairness with games that teach children language, speech, and social skills they can take to the school playground.

A Full Deck: Card games are fun, portable, and the basis of an infinite number of games and activities. Go to www.simon andschuster.com/books/The-Gift-of-Gab to download a full set of cards you can use with this book. You and your child will soon be creating your own personalized card decks. Great for nonreaders and advanced readers alike.

At Home and On the Road: You can take game play, and language development, with you everywhere you go. These are games to play with your child as you go about the chores of daily life, like grocery shopping and laundry.

Let’s Party!: These games and activities allow you to bring game play to larger groups and cross-generational gatherings like birthday parties and family get-togethers—situations that can be challenging for children with developing speech, language, and social skills. The structure of these well-defined games and activities helps ensure that your time together is well spent.
 
SAMPLE GAME: Link Up: Dominoes and Picture Cards

Target Skills: Categories, Parts of Speech, Shapes, Colors, Object Functions, Associations

Materials: Card decks for common objects (nouns: twenty- five), actions (verbs: twenty-five), shapes, colors, and sizes (twenty-five); parts of speech/phrase cards

Object of the Game: To build chains of pictured objects/ actions/attributes based on a describable relationship. The first person to use all of the cards in his hand is the winner.

Step One: Use your child’s knowledge to select the appropriate card decks for this game. Almost all of the card decks provided can be used, so choose those that will spark some imagination and creativity in establishing relationships between the pictured objects and actions. I recommend at least three different card types to allow a broad selection. You want to provide a variety and number enough so that all players can have five to seven cards to start the game.

Step Two: Shuffle the selected decks together well, at least three times. Deal each player a random set of five to seven cards. Caution players not to show their hand to other players.

Step Three: The remaining stack of cards is placed face down in the center of the table. The top card is flipped faceup and placed where all players can see it to act as the starter card.
  • Example: The starter card is a brown shoe.
Step Four: The play moves clockwise (to the left) around the table with each player building on the resulting chain of cards.
A sample sequence:
  • Player One places a red sock next to the brown shoe and says, “Because they are both worn on your foot.”
  • Player Two places a tree next to the brown shoe and says, “Because the tree’s bark and the shoe are both brown.”
  • Player Three places a picture of a red apple next to the red sock and says, “Because both are red.”
  • Player Four places a picture of a witch next to the red apple and says, “Because a witch gave Snow White a poisoned apple.”
Step Five: Players can build the chain based on any element, as long as they can describe a meaningful relationship between the pictured objects. If a player is unable to use a card from her hand, she must take a card from the deck. Play then moves to the next player.

Step Six: If the other players do not agree with the relationship described by a particular player, it is the adult’s prerogative and responsibility to accept or rule out that play. If that turn is ruled out, the player returns the card to her hand and takes another card from the deck.

Step Seven: The first person to play all her cards is the winner.
 

Francine Davids is a retired speech pathologist who worked in the largest elementary school district in Arizona. There, she led the team of speech pathologists, working on speech and language evaluations and program development as well as therapy.